We caught up with Dr. Jeffrey Factor, MD., to learn more about the mild allergy syndrome.
Little Girl Curly Hair Holding a Carrot
Credit: Priscilla Gragg

If your kid has seasonal allergies and also an itchy mouth after eating certain raw fruits or veggies, she may have oral-allergy syndrome. “It’s a fairly common reaction but isn’t dangerous like other food allergies,” says Jeffrey Factor, M.D., the division head of allergy and immunology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Kids allergic to birchtree pollen may react to raw apples, peaches, and celery, and those allergic to grasses may react to tomatoes and melons. It happens because the foods and allergens have similar proteins. Here’s what you should know.

1. It can develop early. Kids as young as 4 who have allergies may complain of an irritated mouth or throat after eating foods such as raw apples or carrots, but it’s unlikely to happen in children under 3. Kids need to be exposed to pollen for a few seasons to become allergic. The reaction to foods can develop at the same time as seasonal allergies or years after.

2. Symptoms are mild. An itchy mouth or throat is most common. Other signs may be a rash around the mouth, localized hives, or mild swelling of the lips. Some kids may have reactions when they eat the fruit or veggie year round, but it’s typically more of an issue during and just after the pollen season. The reaction rarely develops into anything more severe.

3. It’s not a true food allergy. With a severe food allergy, a child reacts when a food is cooked or uncooked. This syndrome occurs only with raw fruits or veggies. Your kid can take an antihistamine an hour before having the food or eat it cooked. Microwaving an apple for about 30 seconds changes the protein to make it less reactive.

Parents Magazine